October 18, 2018 / 7:42 AM / a month ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia stocks falter as dollar, U.S. yields rise to one-week high

* Asian shares down; Chinese mainland stocks tumble

* Treasury yields, dollar up after Fed minutes; Wall St stocks drop

* Sept FOMC minutes show Fed united on rate hikes

* U.S. report doesn’t label China as currency manipulator

* Spreadbetters see European shares opening marginally higher

* WTI crude dips below $70/bbl after large stock build

By Tomo Uetake

TOKYO, Oct 18 (Reuters) - China’s benchmark stock index skidded to four-year lows on Thursday, dragging Asian equities lower, while the dollar hit a one-week high as minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting reinforced expectations that U.S. yields will rise further.

The minutes from the Fed’s Sept. 25-26 meeting showed every Fed policymaker backed raising interest rates last month and also generally agreed borrowing costs were set to rise further, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s view that the Fed was tightening too much.

With very little enthusiasm coming from Asia, financial spreadbetters expect London’s FTSE to open 5 points higher, Frankfurt’s DAX to advance just 6 points, and Paris’s CAC to add 2 points.

MSCI broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.7 percent.

China’s stock markets were hit hard, with the nation’s premier warning that the economy faces increasing downward pressure, amid worries over the impact of an escalating tariff war with the United States.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed as much as 2.6 percent to hit its lowest level in four years, while the blue-chip CSI 300 index dropped as much as 2.1 percent, not far from its more than two-year low marked previous day.

China’s lending data released on Wednesday gave little reassurance for investors ahead of third quarter gross domestic product data set for release on Friday, that is expected to show the slowest growth since the global financial crisis.

“The overall falling trend of total social financing growth remains unchanged, and the loosening of the credit situation that the market has been waiting for has not yet emerged,” analysts at Ping An Securities in Hong Kong said in a note.

The rest of Asia also struggled, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index easing 0.7 percent and Japan’s Nikkei average closing down 0.8 percent.

Data out earlier in the day showed Japan’s exports dropped for the first time since late 2016, hit by declines in shipments to the United States and China.

The U.S. dollar and Treasury yields rose to its highest levels in a week on Wednesday.

The dollar index, which measures its value against six major peers, rose as high as 95.765, its fresh one week-high. 10 year Treasury yield last stood at 3.207 percent, 2.8 basis points higher than the U.S. close.

The euro changed hands at $1.1487, holding steady versus the greenback, after losing 0.65 percent on Wednesday. The euro has lost just under 3 percent of its value versus the dollar over the last three weeks.

Major currencies have shown limited reaction after the U.S. government late on Wednesday refrained from naming China or any other trading partner as a currency manipulator, as it leans on import tariffs to try to cut a trade deficit with China, soothing investor sentiment in Asia.

In its semi-annual currency report, the U.S. Treasury Department said a recent depreciation of China’s yuan currency will likely exacerbate the U.S. trade deficit, but U.S. officials found Beijing appeared to be doing little to directly intervene in the currency’s value.

The yuan was steady at 6.9390 per dollar in the offshore trade, not far off 1-1/2-year low of 6.9587 touched in August.

The onshore yuan fell to as low as 6.9422 at one point, the lowest level since January last year.

But some investors remain wary of a slide towards the psychologically important level of 7 to the dollar.

“The continued risk of a fresh bout of weakness (in the yuan) cannot be ignored” with U.S. Treasury yields beginning to creep higher again, Trump hinting at further tariffs on Chinese goods and the Chinese stocks hitting a multi-year lows, said Simon Derrick, chief currency strategist at BNY Mellon.

In Europe, the European Council meeting kicked off on Wednesday with a roundtable dinner, with British Prime Minister Theresa May’s address ahead of it, though expectations that anything substantial will come out of it have already been fading.

“Hopes for Brexit deal has supported the pound for the past two months. So if there’s no meaningful development, other than longer transition period, the pound could come under short-term selling pressure,” said Tohru Sasaki, head of markets research at JPMorgan Chase Bank in Tokyo.

Oil prices fell on Wednesday, with U.S. futures settling below $70 a barrel for the first time in a month, after U.S. crude stockpiles rose 6.5 million barrels, almost triple what analysts had forecast, while exports dropped.

The West Texas Intermediate crude futures and Brent crude futures last traded at $69.77 and $80.06 a barrel, respectively.

Reporting by Tomo Uetake; Additional reporting by Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai and Noah Sin in Hong Kong; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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